For the past 24 hours, Delhi is abuzz with the arrest of veteran journalist Rajeev Sharma (61) in the spy case. He was arrested along with a Chinese lady Qing Shi (30) who is linked to the Chinese Intelligence agency Ministry of State Security (MSS) and her Nepali associate Sher Singh alias Raj Bohra (30). Who is Rajeev Sharma? Rajeev Sharma was actively seen as a journalist till 2008 and worked with the news agency UNI and then in the Tribune and Sakal newspaper, covering Defence and External Affairs Ministries. After leaving active journalism in 2008, he was continuing in journalism as a freelancer, researcher, and columnist including for several foreign magazines. From 2010 onwards he was writing for the Chinese media platform Global Times. His last article appeared in the last week of June 2020.
Chinese lady and the JMU connection
Police said the Chinese lady, Qing Shi was also taking courses in the Jamia Milia Islamia University in Delhi since 2013. Was this her cover?
In journalist circles, Rajeev Sharma is seen as a pro-Congress person and was actively associated with the party’s media management and published many pro-Congress articles, supporting the UPA Government. Many journalists say that Sharma boasted of his proximity with Ajit Doval from 2014. “He used to wax eloquent that he had just met Mr. D (Doval) and would try to pass off his opinions as Doval’s and would send commands to many young journos,” said a veteran journalist covering foreign affairs. He said that Sharma was eager to enter in several parties of many Embassies and engaged in visiting many countries for the past 12 years.
During the meeting, George asked Rajeev Sharma to write/ inform about Dalai Lama related issues. For this Rajeev Sharma was offered 500 USD per article/ information.
He used to write articles in the bulletins published by the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), a think tank closely associated with Doval. Pakistan, China, Sri Lanka, and Maldives affairs are his favourite subjects. Rajeev Sharma shot into limelight last year by declaring the spying by Pegasus software, pointing fingers at Israel agencies. He declared to media that his phone and WhatsApp messages were also tapped claiming that a Canadian research firm confirmed it to him. This was later seen as a ploy by the Congress party as Sharma planted news that Congress leader Priyanka Vadra’s phone was also hacked. The entire news was based on Rajeev Sharma’s declarations.
Money making mentality
Many veteran journalists who worked with Sharma say that after 2008, his motives changed completely to money-making. “He was a man of the System regardless of who came to power, though his political ideology is with Congress. He loves making a quick buck and loves partying. Whichever party came to power Sharma is seen with Officers and Diplomats,” said a veteran journalist. Sharma also wrote five novels and was eager to make them as movies.
Caught for accepting Rs.30 lakhs from Chinese lady Intelligence Agent
From 2010, Sharma was a regular visitor to China and would meet with several Chinese officials. Here are the excerpts from the Delhi Police Special’s press briefing about Rajiv Sharma: “On interrogation, Rajeev Sharma has disclosed his involvement in the procurement of secret/ sensitive information and further conveying the same to his Chinese handlers namely Michael and George, based in Kunming, China, through different digital channels. He further disclosed that he was about to send/ convey these recovered secret documents to his handlers. In the past also, he had sent several documents in the form of reports to his handlers and got a handsome remuneration for the same.
“During the period 2010-2014, he wrote a weekly column for GLOBAL TIMES, widely known as a mouthpiece of the Chinese govt. Observing those columns, one Chinese intelligence agent named Michael from Kunming city of China contacted Rajeev Sharma through his LINKEDIN account and invited him to Kunming China for an interview with a Chinese Media Company. The entire trip was funded by Michael. During the meeting, Michael and his junior Xou asked Rajeev Sharma to provide inputs on various aspects of India-China relations. Between 2016 to 2018 Rajeev Sharma was in contact with Michael and Xou. He was tasked to provide the information/ inputs on issues like Indian deployment on the Bhutan-Sikkim-China tri-junction including Doklam, the pattern of India-Myanmar military co-operation, India-China boundary issue, etc. Subsequently, Rajeev Sharma had meetings with Michael and Xou in Laos and Maldives once each and gave briefings on the above-mentioned topics. Besides these visits, Rajeev Sharma was also in contact with Michael and Xou through e-mail and social media.
“In January 2019, Rajeev Sharma came in contact with another Kunming based Chinese entity George. He visited Kunming China via Kathmandu and met George. George was introduced as a General Manager of a Chinese Media Company. During the meeting, George asked Rajeev Sharma to write/ inform about Dalai Lama related issues. For this Rajeev Sharma was offered 500 USD per article/ information. George told Rajeev Sharma that they will send him money through his company’s sister concern based in Mahipalpur, Delhi being operated by a Chinese lady Qing. Rajeev Sharma has received more than Rs. 30 Lacs from George in about 10 installments from January 2019 to September 2020 for the information provided by him. Rajeev Sharma had further meetings with George in Malaysia and again in Kunming City, China.
“During the investigation, it is revealed that shell companies are being operated by foreign intelligence to transfer funds to Rajeev Sharma. It is revealed that Chinese nationals namely Jhang Chang and his wife Chang-li-lia were running the companies MZ Pharmacy and MZ Malls, under fake names Suraj and Usha. They are both presently in China and on their behalf, another Chinese lady Qing Shi and one Raj Bohra, a Nepali National (both directors of MZ Pharmacy) are presently operating the business from Mahipalpur. Both, Qing Shi (age 30 yrs) and Sher Singh @ Raj Bohra (age 30 yrs) have also been arrested. Further investigation with respect to the Chinese shell companies based in Mahipalpur is in progress.
“Forensic analysis of seized mobile phones and laptops is being conducted to unearth the entire network and conspiracy in this case. Identities and roles of other foreign nationals involved in the conspiracy are also being ascertained Further investigation is in progress.”
Rajeev Sharma and the other two accused are facing charges under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) currently in Police Custody will be produced before the Court on September 22.
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